Joe and Jeanette are a friendly and generous older couple that love the Lord. Their finances would pass any financial advisor’s inspection. They happily volunteer their time and extensive skills and resources to the poor, sick, needy and down trodden. In some ways, this couple lives lavishly, with expensive cars (they have an extra one, even) and first class travel. Their frugality and saving has given them the retirement they planned for.
In other ways, this elderly couple lives humbly. Their home is modest by most standards, with a subtle do-it-yourself look and well-worn surfaces and corners. Appliances and furniture are well-used, in colors-gone-by. Except for their state-of-the-art flat screen TV that covers half the surface of the wall in their tiny living room, their home could be used in as a movie set for a show that took place decades earlier.
Joe and Jeanette’s hands seem open to other people. They have helped a parade of people over the years. Friends come on the scene when they have needs, and this couple usually will help. But every now and then, their generosity suddenly halts. This is when something triggers them to vehemently clamp their hands shut. This couple is torn. They have moments when they are sure they are all set for their future. At other times, they live in fear.
The emphasis in Christian money management can actually be quite condemning, simplifying the cause-and-effect promises of hard work, saving and regulated spending.
The emphasis in Christian money management can actually be quite condemning, simplifying the cause-and-effect promises of hard work, saving and regulated spending. If we take personal credit for achieving wealth and security, then we also are assigned the blame for unpaid bills. God’s grace and blessings can be left out of this equation. So can curses, hardship and the economy. Many people are frustrated that the prescribed advice in self-help money management books did not yield the promised results in their bank accounts.
It is not unusual for people who have all that they need to judge those who don’t. A friend once told me that they were wealthy because her husband was financially wise and worked hard. She believed that other people were poor because they weren’t like him. Knowing lots of financially lacking people, I couldn’t believe my ears. This couple received their many blessings with a spirit of pride. They judged those who suffered lack. Blessings aren’t always earned, and certainly aren’t meant to be turned against the less-blessed in judgement.
According to Scripture, some poverty is concealed.
We don’t know who owns their luxury car and who owes much of their weekly income on it. In our family’s case, there was no question to our financial situation. I have heard many people say that they never understood how poor they were as children. I knew we were poor. If it cost money, the answer was “no.”
We understood that most things were not for us. No restaurants, no in-style clothing, no “luxury” foods like name-brand macaroni and cheese. We just accepted that was how it was. Poverty can be that way; we accept it and agree with it. We work hard but never think that God could have more for us. Poverty is never praised in Scripture. God is sympathetic toward the poor, whether they accept it or fight it with all that they are, and never win.
Poverty is never praised in Scripture.
Some people live in self-condemnation that they are to blame for their poverty. They live lives where getting the mail and answering the phone are stressful events. When you seem to be unable to pay, you are vilified. When your best efforts and prayers don’t provide quick solutions, you can begin to doubt that God can cover it. Insecurity and fear can become part of your mindset as you seek to navigate accusations and expectations. You can work yourself to exhaustion striving to change what isn’t changing.
Why is the aforementioned elderly couple so seemingly inconsistent in their purchases and giving to other people? It’s because they, too, wear cheap plastic glasses that are held together with duct tape. They view the world through a poverty mindset. They were given their glasses as little tots. They lived with taunts because they were poor. As children, they stood with their hands out, palms open and empty.
Joe was one of eight hungry children and wore second and third-hand pants that were never the right length. There were no credit cards to conceal his family’s true financial status. Jeanette’s many stories are told in bitterness and self-pity. She was ridiculed because of her dirty clothing. She sassed her well-to-do aunt and was henceforth deprived of the compensating niceties that were bestowed on her sisters.
They have led rich and full lives, but are often ruled by memories and fear of lack.
Some say that your wealth is measured by the number of choices that you have. Most of us have choices every day. Compared to most of the world, we are rich. But like many authentically well-provided for people, we can still struggle with the fear of being poor. On a bad day, we can all blame ourselves entirely for lack, even if we never stopped dodging it.
There isn’t a scientifically-confirmed correlation between economic status and righteousness. Many of our grandparents, as children of The Depression, believed that a frugality that scraped bone off with the meat of every bone would keep them from ever being destitute. Ironically, many never were truly as poor as they thought they were. It is common to find hoards of stashed and bundled dollar bills between the mattresses of the apparently "poor" elderly who are deceased. This inaccurate perception of our true wealth still happens today. We may think we are much more poor than we are.
Frugality can become an idol, in itself.
Rich and poor alike suffer from poverty mindsets. Most of us have come by them honestly, growing up with never enough. Others struggle daily as bills pile up and job prospects are elusive. Others have plenty, but hover over their computer screens, shuffling minimum CD balances with investment opportunities, quite convinced that a wrong move on their part will half their retirement opportunities. As mature Christians, we know that God meets our needs (see Philippians 4:19). Our actions, however, indicate that our faith is placed in our own actions.
Rich and poor alike suffer from poverty mindsets.
Poverty is an economic term, but spiritually, it is a mindset. “That’s easy for you to say!” you may say. “Have you struggled your whole adult life to break free of debt, and haven’t been able to?” That question, alone, is diagnostic. If you have worked your whole life to pay your bills, only to realize that a hole exists in your wallet, then you probably have inherited a spirit that can come against your finances, regardless of your actions.
In Blessing or Curse, You Choose, Derek Prince explains generational curses. Even in the event that you have improved your financial standing, living in a nicer neighborhood, for example, you may suffer from debt or lack at a higher level. This may cause you to respond in ways that show a lack of trust that God will provide. You may never seem to be free of financial pressures. Financial peace is evasive.
Poverty is an economic term, but spiritually, it is a mindset.
Here are some other symptoms that the spirit of poverty is at play;
- a pattern of unemployment or underemployment
- you sow, but you do not reap (because your “spiritual ground” is cursed)
- debt continues and/or grows despite all efforts to eliminate it
- a pattern of evictions, foreclosures and repossessions is apparent
- chaos and confusion is evident regarding possessions; things are lost, broken, and ruined (appliances, vehicles, clothing, household items)
- your “purse” or “bucket” has holes in it; regardless of what goes in, it never seems to stay there or be enough
“You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
It may also be that you have unknowingly (or knowingly) agreed with the enemy in other areas. Other sins can cause financial issues. The idolatry of material possessions and money violates the first commandment and opens the doors for financial havoc in our lives. Gambling and other addictions steal from our prosperity. Simple greed can keep God’s blessings at bay. If these sins are confessed and repented of, and we humble ourselves and pray, the righteousness required in 2 Chronicles 7:14 is met;
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
There are still other reasons why we may struggle financially. It is important to seek God for wisdom and ask Him to show us if we are causing our problems. If you believe that you are doing what God has asked you to do and still struggle financially, it is time to come against this spirit of poverty through prayer. Seek counsel from a spirit-filled Pastor or friend to break this spirit off of your family line.
Derek Prince’s Blessing or Curse, You Choose explains in detail what the Bible says about such curses. This is your resource if you don’t have people around you to help break such curses off of your family. The book contains prayers to help you come before God to be freed of curses like poverty.
Still, when you are set free from the spirit of poverty, the mindset can remain. A great way to “renew your mind” is to recite verses about God’s provision and goodness. Romans 12: 2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
When you are set free from the spirit of poverty, the mindset can remain.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Whether we are rich or poor, we are told to live with a heart of gratitude. I Thessalonians 5:18 says, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We must be grateful in plenty and in want. Our attitudes matter. When we look at every good thing as a gift, we keep pride in check. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
We must be grateful in plenty and in want. Our attitudes matter.
This heart-shift results in freedom because we know that we aren't depending on ourselves. Proverbs 10:22 says, “The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, without painful toil for it.” Painful toil and becoming a slave to your job(s) is not a required to have “enough.” God has plenty for all of us.
True freedom happens when we can rest in God’s goodness. When we understand and believe that all that we have that is good is from Him, then we give “cheerfully” back to Him (see 2 Corinthians 9:7) because we know it will run over and come back to us (see Luke 6:38).
The curse of poverty can be evicted. Our hearts and mind can be changed. Our lives can overflow with blessings instead of living in perpetual lack. It may be time to deal with a poverty mindset and/or a poverty spirit that has stolen from your for years. Take your place as a child of the King! My prayers are with you as you seek God for wisdom on how to move forward.